Code of the treehopper

5 minutes

Gardening with Nietzsche

8 minutes

Steve is undocumented

10 minutes

You and the thing that you love

12 minutes

Should computers run the world?

36 minutes

Coded vibrations and signal jamming – the secret language of the treehoppers

Treehoppers, a large family of insects found around the globe, live on plant branches, sucking nutrients from sap and frequently blending in with their surrounding to avoid the attention of predators. At first glance, the creatures appear rather boring as they stay relatively still and quiet much of the time, but scientists are learning that there’s much more to them than first meets the eye – or ear. By vibrating their torsos while grasping branches, treehoppers dispatch their own complex version of Morse code to warn of nearby predators, woo mates and even disrupt the signals of rivals. And treehoppers are hardly anomalous: tens of thousands of species of insects communicate using similar vibrations, meaning that there’s an entire universe of hidden animal communications we’re just beginning to understand. In this instalment of bioGraphic’s Invisible Nature series, the animator and filmmaker Flora Lichtman puts her inimitable style to evocative use, recreating the world of treehoppers with stunning tiny creations playfully animated.

Director: Flora Lichtman

Producer: Annette Heist

Websites: bioGraphic, Sweet Fern Productions

Amid the chaos of being, Nietzsche believed that plants offer us inspiration for living

Aristotle thought that plants possess what he called a ‘vegetative soul’. Centred on growing and reproducing, this primordial, unthinking state of being was encompassed and far surpassed by the ‘rational soul’ of humans. Friedrich Nietzsche, however, believed that, in the overwhelming confusion of considering how we might live, there was much we could learn from plants – deeply rooted in the ground and yet limitlessly expressive as they are. Borrowing from some of Nietzsche’s lesser-known writings, this short video essay might just inspire you to look at a plant growing through a crack in the ‘inhospitable ground’ – and perhaps even Nietzsche himself – in a new light.

Video by The DOX Channel

Writer: Zoe Almon Job

Animator: Theo Garcia

Meet the British bouncer in LA on an expired visa who has no time for immigrants

Steve is a former weightlifter who still keeps up with quite a few hobbies: fitness, heavy metal music, clay sculpture, bikes, motorcycles, and lots and lots of weapons. He works as a bouncer outside a Los Angeles nightclub, making small talk with the (often over-served) young patrons, and throwing out troublemakers. And, as he’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, he hates what immigration is doing to the country – despite being a Brit who’s overstayed his own US visa by 25 years. Steve Is Undocumented captures him at a moment of transition, preparing for a move back to England with his wife, who is pregnant with twins. With their stylish and often wry profile, the directors Michael Barth and Kauai Moliterno build a complex portrait in just 10 minutes, capturing the many intricacies and blaring hypocrisies of Steve’s life and worldview.

Directors: Michael Barth, Kauai Moliterno

Producer: Nathan Truesdell

After losing his sight, a skateboarder takes an unexpected path to realising his dreams

Nick Mullins fell in love with skateboarding as a teenager and, rather quickly, became quite skilled. As one of the best young skateboarders in the Detroit area, he was putting together a video to catch the attention of sponsors, when, after taking a rough but mostly innocuous fall, he scraped the side of his body and contracted a staph infection. He would barely escape with his life, and after waking up from a medically induced coma, realised he had gone blind. Believing he had no prospects – in skating or in life – he fell into a deep depression. The short documentary You and the Thing That You Love retells how Mullins would eventually realise his dreams, albeit by taking a very much unanticipated path. Capturing Mullins’s story with kinetic style, the US filmmaker Nicholas Maher avoids cliché to create a standout portrait of perseverance and love of craft – and one that can be savoured even if you don’t know your ‘blunts’ from your ‘fakies’.

Director: Nicholas Maher

Algorithms are sensitive. People are specific. We should exploit their respective strengths

The capabilities of algorithms and human brainpower overlap, intersect and contrast in a multitude of ways, argues Hannah Fry, an associate professor in the mathematics of cities at University College London, in this lecture at the Royal Institution from 2018. And, says Fry, planning for an efficient, ethical future demands that we carefully consider the respective strengths of each without stereotyping either as inherently good or bad, while always keeping their real-world consequences in mind. Borrowing from her book Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms (2018), Fry’s presentation synthesises fascinating studies, entertaining anecdotes and her own personal experiences to build a compelling argument for how we ought to think about algorithms if we’d like them to amplify – and not erode – our humanity.

Coded vibrations and signal jamming – the secret language of the treehoppers

Treehoppers, a large family of insects found around the globe, live on plant branches, sucking nutrients from sap and frequently blending in with their surrounding to avoid the attention of predators. At first glance, the creatures appear rather boring as they stay relatively still and quiet much of the time, but scientists are learning that there’s much more to them than first meets the eye – or ear. By vibrating their torsos while grasping branches, treehoppers dispatch their own complex version of Morse code to warn of nearby predators, woo mates and even disrupt the signals of rivals. And treehoppers are hardly anomalous: tens of thousands of species of insects communicate using similar vibrations, meaning that there’s an entire universe of hidden animal communications we’re just beginning to understand. In this instalment of bioGraphic’s Invisible Nature series, the animator and filmmaker Flora Lichtman puts her inimitable style to evocative use, recreating the world of treehoppers with stunning tiny creations playfully animated.

Director: Flora Lichtman

Producer: Annette Heist

Websites: bioGraphic, Sweet Fern Productions

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Stinson Beach, California, 1973. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum

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